Songs of Heaven and Earth

Songs of Celebration from around the World.
Recorded 2001 in the Findhorn Foundation with the Findhorn Foundation Community Singers. Director: Barbara Swetina

01. Alleluia (Israel)
02. Thy Kingdom Come
    (Sanyassin chant arr. B. Swetina)
03. Siya Hamba (South Africa)
04. Alleluia round (Mozart)
05. Kyrie (Ghana)
06. Santo, Santo, Santo (Argentina)
07. Freedom is Coming (South Africa)
08. Noyana (South Africa)
09. Tibje Pajom (Russian Hymn)
10. Peace Prayer Mandala
11. Halle, Halle, Halle (Caribbean)
12. Havana Shira (Hebrew Round)
13. Russian Alleluia (Orthodox Chant)
14. Be Still and Know
15. Agios o Theos (Greek Orthodox Hymn)

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The Making of 'Songs of Heaven and Earth'

"You are going to have a very creative period at the beginning of 2001" an astrological reading told me last year. A few weeks later I received an invitation to lead songs for the Education conference in October of 2001 in Hawaii. "If I'm on the road," I thought, "it would be great to have some of my favourite chants and songs already recorded, so that after the workshop people could buy the CD and take music away with them. Such a CD could also be a great way to get our community to sing even more - in the kitchens, in meetings, with our guests... and it could also serve to raise money for the completion of the Cluny rennovations!" With this in mind my plan for a new recording project started to form.

Listing my favourite songs and chants I asked our community singers when they would be available for a longer project. But this is like asking a bunch of fleas to stay in the same spot for a while. Everybody is involved in so many projects, shifts and trainings, each at a different time, that it's almost impossible to get a committment! So after thinking this over with a couple of friends I decided that the best option was to ask everybody to set aside a chunk of time in which we would step out of our daily routine and live together. My idea was to keep singing without interruption for many days, in order to build up a momentum, a strong energy-field of joy, harmony and celebration. In this way we would also work as consciously as possible on the process of fine-tuning our voices for the recording process. I had hoped for a week, but looking at everybody's committments we realised that there were only 4 days where everybody was available, so it had to all happen over a long weekend.

Newbold House kindly agreed to rent us their front room for the recording and to cook for us for a very reasonable price. Thank you Newbold family! So on January 11th we all arrived in the beautiful old house with our sheets and pillowcases. We divided into boys and girls dormitories and immediately felt at home, enjoying the atmosphere of college and school excursions.

In no time we were singing and having fun, and the spontaneous expression of our voices was immediately captured by David Hammond, our wonderful sound engeneer. But when we listened back through high quality speakers we were sobered. It was far from what I had hoped we could achieve. 'God!' I thought, 'only in Findhorn would anyone try to do a quality recording with a bunch of amateurs in such a short time and with such a minimum budget as we are doing and still hope for an excellent result! ' But having worked with the power of miracles before, I knew anything was possible, and I surrendered to the angels, asking them to be in charge and to guide us in this beautiful but quite impossible adventure: It is Friday. We have spent already a whole day with tuning exercises and various ways of rearranging of voices and now we finally start to sound like a choir. We are working on a Caribbean song, a joyful and rhythmic Alleluia. After several attempts we feel: "This is it, done". But no, often in the best take a floorboard squeakes or someone's ankle cracks. Groaning from the group! But then the resolution: we can do it again, and even better! That's when people become creative: shoulder massages are swapped, a quick joke, a dance is offered to lighten the atmosphere, everybody a leader, a finder of solutions, a contributor.

The plan works out as I had hoped: Every day we build on the experience and energy of the previous day. Over time a joyful cameraderie is growing, we see (and hear) positive results and we start to experience moments which are truely magical. Siya Hamba, an African song sounds full of joy and energy as we sing it just to change the atmosphere, unaware of being recorded. The peace prayer mandala sounds mesmerizing with prayers of the 6 world religions all being sung at the same time.

In the Israeli Alleluia Lori Sunshine weaves magic with her harp and in Tibje Pajom, a beautiful Russian orthodox chant we feel Newbold lounge transformed into a Cathedral. One night all are huddled around a single candle: this is the moment for the 'Kyrie' from Ghana. The men are humming a gentle drone, it sounds like the beginning of creation, lost in the mists of time. Out of this sound the voice of woman is heard, praising God. Liz is singing the solo, we are captured by the beauty of her voice. She then is joined by Tordis, bringing in the beautiful (and tricky) alto part, with a rich and velvety voice. Then the tenors! Will they get their entry? Held breaths and - yes! On we go, now other voices are joining the flow and we are carried by the power of grace. More voices are coming in until all are singing and we are lifted into a powerful current of breath, harmony and prayer. When we listen back we all feel chills in our spine.

We sleep very little those 4 days, we cant stop ourselves and go on singing long past midnight just for the pleasure of it. But we seem to have a chemical in the blood that allows us to go on much less sleep than normally and we are all up and eager the next day.

On Monday our project finally ends. I am exhausted and exhilarated. Looking around me I see beaming faces who seem to say: "Haven't we all just been in heaven?" I gratefully acknowledge: Thank you angels! You were there, grace was there and you showed us again: with the power of God nothing is impossible!

Barbara Swetina